He stares hard at the student waiting at the other side of the center desk. She asks to pick up her package, and he nods, has her sign the register, and hands over a cardboard box. The co-secretary is gone for the day, and he swears that the fluorescent lights that they were replacing when he walked in that morning are now burning halos into his corneas. When the first desk worker arrives, he steals away with a small book of one pages stories and heads to the hole-in-the-wall bakery down the street. Both managers are at a meeting.
He orders two shots of espresso and a buttermilk scone, and the girl behind the counter – the pretty one – recognized him but doesn’t know from where. She asks him how he’s doing, and if he’s busy this semester. He nods. She asks him about his class load, and he tells her that he’s only taking one class in an MFA program, but is instead working fifty-five hours a week. He knows where she recognizes him from – a friend of a friend – but enjoys the anonymity. She asks where he’s working and he tells her the name of the dormitory nearby.
He eats his scone and sips his espresso and reads pages from the book, but only his eyes see the words because his mind is wondering why that girl doesn’t remember where she recognizes him from. Last time he was there, she was the one who told him that they were introduced by Emma. He barely knows Emma as it is. But in a town of forty thousand students, it’s easy to not remember why you remember someone.
He leaves his plate on the table and folds his book up, and crosses the street back to the dorm. His head is clearer and his eyes focus better. On his way down the sidewalk he sees a man who used to live in the same apartment complex before he moved. The man looks at him for a second, then nods and says hi as they pass. He wonders if this man knows why he recognizes him.
Now it’s ten thirty and he heads to his office for the first time that day. Sitting by his keyboard is a card and a mug. He opens the card; it is signed by everyone on the staff with thanks. A giftcard falls out. The mug is decorated with a dark brown glaze around the rim and on it is written, “Jesse’s coffee runneth over…”